Saints in Purgatory


I had a surprising thought the other day when I was thinking about a nun I used to know and how and when saints can intercede for us.

It is conceivable that even the holiest saints may have died with venial sin on their soul… or still had to pay reparation in Purgatory for past sins. Under such circumstances they would not be able to intercede for us while they remained in Purgatory. Made me think that we should also remember (prospective) saints when we pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory… and not just the most neglected souls. Perhaps some holy souls have had delayed canonizations because they are actually still in Purgatory and can’t pray to God for miracles for us?

So I ponder, do some saints also have to go to Purgatory?

I’m really sincere about this. I got the thought when I was directing a prayer for intercession to a wonderful nun (Sister M. Fabian Walsh R.S.M.) I met in the late 1990s. She passed away in 2004. I suddenly thought what if she’s needing my prayers to get out of Purgatory? So I have been praying for her but at the same time I feel guilty for even thinking she might be in Purgatory.



You are absolutely right to offer prayers for Sr M. Fabian and anyone else you wish - deceased family members, friends, etc. There is no need to feel guilty for supposing that certain holy people may have had to pass through purgatory. The only people we are sure are in heaven are those whom the Church has declared to be saints. Therefore it is right to offer prayers for the dead with the assumption that they may be in purgatory

The vast, vast majority of saints have spent time in purgatory. Remember that everyone in purgatory will be a saint, because they are eventually going to get to heaven - all souls in heaven are saints. As you suggest, I think we should not neglect to pray for the souls of even the most holy people we have known - they need our prayers too.


God wants you in Heaven, not Purgatory. So if you trust in Him to get you into Heaven, He will.


A couple of thoughts.
There is no reason why someone in purgatory cannot intercede for us. Someone in purgatory can pray for us just as easily as a soul here on earth can.

When you speak of “saints” you should remember that there are only saints in heaven whether they are canonized or not makes no difference. In point of fact there are only saints in purgatory as well, for these souls are destined for heaven after their purgation.

So - Do pray for the soul of your friend. Also ask her to pray for you. This is what the community of saints is for.



Hi “Rove” Wow, this is an interesting question, actually. Of course, anything we come up with would be pure speculation, since there is no way any of us can know who is in Purgatory and who is not.

I have a similar situation, though… where I have been praying for the intercession of my childhood Pastor Monsignor O’Gorman… and an Associate Pastor (who was a regular Confessor, I sought out)… now deceased. Both of them, were very holy priests. But perhaps, they are in need of prayers, too? I really hadn’t considered this, at all.

But thanks to your question, I will pray for them!

God bless!
MV :slight_smile:


Thanks folks I appreciate your thoughts. Hi MV - yes we are in a similar situation. You can imagine the shock I got while asking for Sister Fabian’s prayers when the thought popped into my mind that maybe she might need my prayers. Thanks for the encouragement.

The Holy Souls in Purgatory can’t pray for each other or themselves but since it is a place of separation from God I can’t see how they could be praying for us until they got out of Purgatory.

Anyway, in the meantime I will continue to pray for Sister Fabian as well and if she doesn’t need them I’ll ask her to be my agent to pass on those prayers to those who most need them in Purgatory.



Beautiful attitude. When Holy Mother Church canonizes a saint then we can be assured that they are in heaven and can absolutely intercede for us and how comforting for us to know that we can offer up prayers for the wonderful souls that we believe already may be in heaven but might just need a few more powerful prayers to pass from purgatory into the fullness of the love of Christ in heaven. We ask for their intercession for our needs as though they are in heaven and pray for their souls as though they may temporrarily still be in purgatory and trust that God will apply our prayers and intentions that most bring glory to His name! Thank you for such a beautiful guestion. P.S. Please pray for me. I just had foot surgery and could use prayers for a successful recovery! PAX


I had not heard this before that the souls in purgatory cannot pray for themselves or for others. Do you have a church reference for this?



Thanks sfoscott and I have prayed for God’s blessing on you and in your recovery from the foot surgery. I think we are in a very privileged position to be able to help the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

James I can not quote you church ‘chapter and verse’ - it’s my understanding that while the Holy Souls are in Purgatory they are not able to effectively pray for each other, themselves or for us because they are temporarily separated from God and the saints. That’s why we are so earnestly requested to pray for the those in Purgatory.

I would appreciate it if anyone knows if this matter is addressed in Canon law. I can’t find anything directly relating to the matter in the Catechism.



On the matter of if the Holy Souls in Purgatory can pray for us or not check out the Catholic Encyclopedia:Purgatory (sorry, you’ll have to Google it). Basically it says that the Church hasn’t made a definite statement on this and then it presents convincing arguments both for and against the proposal.




Thank you. For anyone else Inerested, here is a LINK.

Persoanlly I lean toward their being able to pray for us because of my reading of St Catherine of Sienna. In the Dialogues it is written that, when we die, those who are perfected in Love, reach out to God’s Love and are taken to heaven. Those who are not perfected in Love, but are in a state of “ordinary charity” reach out to God’s mercy and are taken to a place (purgatory) where their love is perfected. Those who have lived in evil reach out to that evil and thus embracing it fall into damnation.

Those in Purgatory have already achieved salvation, for no one leaves purgatory to go into hell, and I cannot fathom that those persons are unable to plead on our behalf. In fact, such pleading by the souls in purgatory on our behalf would seem to fit perfectly with the idea of perfecting their Love for such prayers would come from a selfless desire to help we who are still sojourning here.
Also I don’t agree with an argument that says they are “seperated from God” and therefore cannot pray for us. If that were true, then we here on earth would be unable to pray for each other. Are we, among the living, who are still, “working out our salvation with fear and trembling”, more united with God than those who, having passed beyond and been judged worthy, are in Puragatory who have already assured their place among the elect?
Finally I am reminded of the Rich man and Lazarus. The Rich man spoke to Lazarus from the pit asking Lazarus to intercede with his family still living that they might avoid damnation. Surely if the Rich man could make such a request from the Hades, the poor souls can make such requests from Purgatory - and with greater effect.



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